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  • Alexa McCarthy

A Most Magnificent Woman

Updated: Jul 16, 2018

There are more than a few things my mother taught me about life and business, and I thought I'd share some tricks of her trade.

My mother was famous for, while doing some banal activity like chopping onions or folding laundry, pausing mid-task to expend some pearls of wisdom about said task. She did and taught seamlessly, and it was the same at the store. We'd sit on the steps down to the change rooms to offer opinions to prospective clothes-owners, and Mum would say, "Alexa, always give an truthful opinion about how someone looks in something. If it's not very flattering, be kindly honest. It saves them a trip back to return it later, and they'll know they can trust us." Trust was important to her.

Mum knew it was also important that people felt welcome when they came in. She liked to offer coffee and tea to someone who took their time shopping and would set it all up on a nice tea tray with sugar cubes and porcelain creamers if they accepted. She liked to treat people as though they'd come to her house rather than her store.

She was a little eccentric, my mother. But it made her memorable. And it made working fun. Whenever anyone came in, she would ask them in some crazy way if they needed help. Never "Can I help you?" or "Are you just browsing?" Mum would ask instead, "Can I pester you or do prefer it if I ignore you?" or "Do you require my most invaluable assistance?" They usually looked a little stunned for a brief moment before they laughed. Rapport was important to her.

I remember standing at the cash with my mother one day as she circled the amount on the receipt she'd just put through. She noticed immediately that she'd overcharged someone by a thousand dollars and explained that this was the exact reason she circled the amount. "It's good to double check in case I make a mistake." (Don't worry, we refunded his money!)

Mum had reasons for all the seemingly pointless and crazy things she did. They were good reasons. And people remember her for doing them. It's hard to escape her lessons now, not that I'd want to. She was practical and thoughtful, and it made a difference. So now I go about my days with her pearls in my ears, remembering her and everything she taught me.

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